Google AdWords for Decision Makers – Part One

By Jasper Vallance | 14 May 2013

Jasper Vallance shares a portion of his many years experience with Google, discussing strategic concerns for online retailers when setting up with AdWords.

Ask any online retailer what the key drivers are for profitable sales, and after email marketing and SEO, Google AdWords generally comes in at a close third place.

Having seen online retailers literally grow their businesses from nothing to multimillion dollar enterprises with the majority of their marketing budget spent on AdWords, I’m well aware of just how enticing this platform is. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many things a business owner should consider before making any large budgeting decisions.

What’s the major attraction? The reason Google Adwords works is simple, because you are able to connect with someone at the moment of purchase intent with a targeted ad and a tailored destination page to sell the services they are looking for. In addition, it operates on a cost-per-click model (CPC), meaning you only pay for the advertising once someone has physically clicked on it. It’s therefore very easy to monitor your spend and return on investment (ROI) via this channel. On the other hand, the CPC rate has been driven up in recent years as an increasing number of marketers have begun to compete on specific terms, making it harder and more expensive to gain critical visibility.

All in all, AdWords is still a potentially lucrative source of traffic for those businesses that approach the channel in the correct way. This mostly entails recognising your company’s key objectives to develop an optimal keyword strategy.

Developing a Winning Keyword Strategy

The very first things to begin considering with AdWords are your key objectives which will dictate your keyword strategy, how to measure success and also how you will determine whether a campaign is profitable or not.

  • Key Objectives – For example, a physical chain of camera stores may wish to focus on terms such as ‘which SLR’ or ‘best SLR’ in order to target consumers that are looking for information. In this case, the brand’s website should be designed to provide this expertise and direct consumers to an in-store expert. Alternatively, a pureplay store that’s set up to sell to a more qualified audience might target specific brands and models of cameras in AdWords. The keyword strategy may also vary between PC/Tablets and Mobile in this case.  Given price comparison behaviours in-store are commonplace, the multichannel camera retailer may want to advertise on camera model search terms and only target the area around their stores, as this could provide an opportunity to win the customer from the store down the road.
  • Measuring Success – In the first case, the multichannel camera store might closely watch its website’s bounce rates and visits to store locators or FAQ pages in order to measure the success of an AdWords campaign. In contrast, the pureplay retailer bidding on ‘Canon EOS 600D’, for example, would focus more on pure conversion rates instead.
  • Determine Profitability – This is certainly much more straightforward for the pureplay online camera store, as the overall profitability of the AdWords campaign is a simple equation of overall attributable profit from conversions versus total campaign spend. For the multichannel store, a more complex arrangement will be required, where engagement metrics like bounce rates and visits to specific pages are attributed a reasonable value.

Get Started with Trial Campaigns

The great thing with AdWords is that it’s very easy to set up a trial campaign with a smaller budget to learn whether your strategy is going to work for your business before expanding out. Yet to be successful there are certain fundamentals you need to get right.

Firstly, how well your AdWords campaign is set up and optimised will directly impact performance and there is a high level of expertise required to get this right. Success is dependent on connecting with the right people at the right point in the purchase process, with an eye catching and relevant ad creative. This alone can take years of experience to get right, and unless you have the available talent in-house, it’s highly recommended to seek out a third party who will take care of this requirement for you – but beware of cowboys that will exploit your lack of experience (more on choosing the right partner later).

Secondly, it doesn’t matter how well your campaign itself is set up, the landing page (and related offer/promotion) it directs traffic to on your website can make or break the overall success of the initiative. For this reason, it’s critical to invest both time and money on getting this right. This generally means ensuring the copy, imagery, video or any other related content on your site’s landing page directly addresses the visitors’ reason for clicking the advert and can then guides them along the path to purchase.

Finally, every campaign needs to take into account the fragmented nature of consumer platforms and mobile devices in particular. Your landing pages need to be optimised for multiple browser types, including mobile browsers, in order to realise the best return. This also means measuring performance in context – a mobile browser may select your ad via AdWords, but is likely to later complete a transaction via a larger screen device or in-store. Google’s new Universal Analytics will enable cross device tracking, but this is still being rolled out in Australia. In addition, the length of the purchase process will have a direct effect on how long the sale takes to complete from the original AdWords click. Multichannel Funnels in Google Analytics can help you establish the lag time from clicks to purchase, as well as whether keywords play an assisting role in the purchase process.

Stay Tuned

Any attempt at providing a complete account of how Google AdWord’s can be optimised for an online retail business is bound to fail given the breadth of content and the many variables at play.

Instead, check back next week for the next instalment of this series on AdWords, where the discussion will move to budgeting, as well as higher considerations when partnering with SEM agencies or consultants, including what to expect and watch out for.